Mia’s ordinary life is disrupted in the most horrifying way possible when she is possessed by a hungry and powerful demon–and only saved by the arrival of relatives from Italy, the country her grandfather fled many decades ago. Now her cousins Emilio and Giuliano say the only way to keep her safe is for her to come back with them to Milan, to live, to learn Italian, to fall in and out of love, and to master the family trade: fighting all demons with the lore of bell, book, and candle. Milan is not what Mia expected, but it will change her forever, in this stunningly well-written novel about an American girl who, fleeing an ancient evil, finds her only salvation in her ancestral home.
I started reading this novel hoping that it wouldn’t be too terrible and I finished it hoping that it wouldn’t end. I mean, you guys, this one wasn’t even on my radar. This is a 2012 debut novel that should be on everyone’s radar because it is just that good. Okay, so excuse me not so coherent review. It’s 1:03 am and it’s Ramadan (not that I’m using that as an excuse, okay maybe I am.)
Let me begin again.
The Demon Catchers of Milan is a breath of fresh air on the flailing paranormal YA genre. Beyer manages to create a world in which demons are not beautiful creatures who sparkle and tempt with their beauty but are inhuman, scary creatures that evoke primal fear in human beings. If you are into being scared, The Exorcist style, this is the book for you. In fact, in one of the first scenes, we totally have the famous Exorcist scene. And it is CREEPY! Heart racing, eyes wide, breath fast scary! Not something that is dressed up as scary but not really scary but as in I mean business scary.
Mia is a great protagonist but more than that, she has a relatable narrative voice and tone that a reader can’t help but empathize with. This book actually pays attention to the language barrier and Mia’s gradual learning of the language is detailed just enough that it feels real and logical. And yes, Mia does have some issues where her looks are concerned but this does not become a consuming issue and is addressed and resolved later in the book. Also, the pacing is a bit slow in the middle but it doesn’t detract majorly from the narrative so I am not going to complain too much about it.
What I really loved about this novel is how the paranormal is approached. It is an unknown entity, these demons and their possessions, it is innately evil and Beyer does not try to explain that and make it more palatable in the form of pretty demon boys. Whatever is gunning for Mia is an evil ugly being and it remains so. I also loved the emphasis on family in this novel. Usually the main character is pretty much isolated in her observations and her actions but in this novel, family is a big part of the proceedings. They are there and they are important – each relative is important and this works to create a cohesive narrative.
Also, the whole focus on food? I approve so damned much. Then there’s the romance – or the lack of it. I’m sure it will follow in the next couple of books but I liked how in this book, there is a glimpse of it, there is a potential of it and there is a promise of it but there’s no heavy romance where there are soul mates and leave me never and love you forever bits that actually always leave me feeling a bit nauseated. The novel is an exploration of Mia’s growth from the timorous ungainly girl she is at the beginning to the confident beautiful woman she is at the end. I love how assertive the ending is and I simply cannot wait to read the next one in the series. Strongly recommended.